Cramming Syndrome

Cramming Syndrome 20.9.19
Karen and Richie were both physical education majors at the University of Maryland's College Park campus. Both were superb all-around athletes, each with a specialty: a remarkable gymnast, Karen was looking forward to a career as a fitness trainer and gymnastics coach while Richie aspired to be a top-level strength-and-conditioning expert and swimming coach. They had much in common and planned to get married after graduating. Meanwhile, you'd always find them together, whether in the same classes or mostly enjoying outdoor and athletic activities. They played tennis and golf together and on weekends they'd go on long bike rides along the old Potomac River towpath near Seneca, Maryland or drive down for sun & surf at Ocean City.

Just as Karen and Richie loved the same things, they hated the same things. Their pet hate was Organic Chemistry 202. This was a required course for phys-ed majors just as it was required for pre-med students. There was no way around it. Karen and Richie could easily breeze through most of their studies, but there was no way to breeze through Organic Chem – you had to sit yourself down at a desk and learn, then learn, then learn some more. Were it not for this nemesis, their university days would have been play-school paradise, but alas, there's always a bump in the road...

Having cut most of their classes, the happy-go-lucky boyfriend and girlfriend decided that the bald-headed nerd who taught Organic Chem couldn't teach them anything that wasn't in the textbook; all the formulas and types of compounds seemed clear, no different than what the instructor was writing on the blackboard, so why sit in class on a balmy Maryland springtime afternoon, when you could be sunbathing or water skiing on the Chesapeake Bay?

The clock never stopped ticking; minutes, hours, days and weeks transpired until the ax suddenly hovered above their necks – final exams. They had only three days to prepare for Judgment Day in Organic Chem. That's when the talk about cramming started...

Karen and Richie didn't really open a book until 48 hours before the final exam. A 452-page text book in Organic Chemistry is quite different from a 452-page novel. It's not something  a person can sail through. Sometime, one can struggle with a single solitary page for a week. So, how do you cram 452 pages of ions, anions, carbonates, oxides, alcohols, phenols and carbides in three days?

First, you pull all-nighters.

You would think that phys-ed majors and fitness freaks don't do things that are detrimental to their health. Not so, if they're hit with the cramming syndrome…

How does one go for two days without sleeping? Phys-ed majors or not, you destroy your body and your brain with over-the-counter No-Doze pills and drink Turkish coffee and RedBull as if they were water. In short, you become a zombie with big black circles under your eyes and heart palpitations at the ripe old age of 22.

After the exam, the campus couple crashed, and it took a good two weeks for them to recover from the trauma they brought upon their bodies. Is it worth it? OK, even if they did pass the test (barely), they didn't retain a single thing of what they crammed. Consequently, the cramming added nothing to their education or personal development, except for enabling them to get their degrees. And, that's the best-case scenario...

***

Don't think that the cramming syndrome is only characteristic of university students like Karen and Richie.  Many folks suffer from it too. All year long, they do what they like, forgetting that they too have a day of “final exams”, when the Heavenly Court examines a person's every deed, spoken word and thought for the entire year. This final exam is the annual judgment day, known as Rosh Hashana. This final exam is no joke – it's life and death, as we say in the Rosh Hashana liturgy, “Who by fire, who by flood, who by the sword, and who by a wild animal...”

How do we prepare for such a final exam? Who can possibly account for what they thought, said or did nine, six or even three months ago?

Fortunately, The Almighty gave us a week of "Selichot", when we ask forgiveness and move into repentance mode. Beginning this coming Saturday night, we simply admit to Hashem what we did wrong, ask His forgiveness and pray for His help in improving ourselves. Penitenec, or teshuva as we say in Hebrew, is the "spiritual shower" required to maintain one's spiritual hygiene, where people should assess themselves and rectify what needs correcting every single day.

Obviously, the best course of action is to devote an hour a day to personal prayer, when we examine everything we did in the last 24 hours and do our necessary teshuva. That way, there's no need for cramming the year's 365 days – which we can't possibly remember everything that requires correcting – into the few remaining days before Rosh Hashana. Yet, most people stall until the last week or the last three days. That's tough…

It's tough to cram in a week. Yet, our compassionate and merciful Father in Heaven knows that we're human, so He gives us a one-week cramming period every year before Rosh Hashana – it's called the Selichot Week. Let's get to work! Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat and a very happy New Year 5780, LB


5 Steps to Loving Yourself

Loving Yourself 17.9Many people mistakenly think that if a person loves himself, then he's a narcissist...

The world is utterly confused between narcissism, a definitely undesirable trait, and loving yourself, which is a key to your happiness, success and emotional health in addition to being the vital element in your relationship with yourself, with others and with the Creator.

Narcissism is excessive to exclusive interest in oneself and one's physical appearance. The narcissist is far from happy, for he or she craves praise and admiration. He wants to be the center of the show and needs everyone to tell him how great he (or she) is and looks. In that way, the narcissist is an emotional cripple, entirely dependent on compliment-handouts from others.

The person who loves himself is the exact opposite and entirely independent: he who loves himself doesn't need any outside reinforcement. He's happy with himself, no matter how seemingly unsuccessful or limited he might be.

If we don't love ourselves, we won't be able to love anyone else. A person who doesn't love himself is never satisfied with himself or with anyone around him, he's not even satisfied with the Almighty!

If you want to be happy right now, and not wait until you become rich, get elected to the Senate or find the spouse of your dreams, then you must learn to love yourself. If you wait for the dream to materialize, you'll find that even then, you won't be truly happy, because loving yourself doesn't depend on that dream coming true either or on any other external condition.

Here's how to love yourself in a few easy steps: repeat these steps every day until they become second nature.

  1. Step #1: Look in the mirror, close-up. Don't focus on your clogged pores or on your broken nose (like mine; when I look east, my nose looks west). They mean nothing. Don't count your gray hairs, if you have them. Look into your eyes. See into the wonderful soul reflecting from those eyes. Do this for a whole minute, 60 seconds. If you have tears in your eyes, that's fine. If you start crying, that's even better. If you blurt out, "I love you," that's wonderful. This just might be the first time that you looked at your real self.
  2. Step #2: Repeat the first of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith. Encapsulated, tell yourself that you believe that everything comes from the Almighty and that He alone did, does and will do everything. 
  3. Step #3: The Torah tells us that we are Hashem's children and that His love for us is unfathomable. For sixty seconds, tell yourself, "G-d loves me." Don't simply repeat it – contemplate it and feel gratitude in your heart for the zillions of life's blessings. Now, move on.
  4. Step #4: Think now that since the Creator is a loving Father-in-Heaven, and He loves me, He therefore created me with everything I need to be happy. Think how your apparent shortcomings are not shortcomings at all, because the Creator doesn't give you what you don't need to fulfill your purpose in life. Now, look for your good points. Think of your three most beautiful qualities.
  5. Step #5: Tell yourself how much you love yourself, just the way you are, right now – the whole package as is. Since you love yourself, you're now ready to love everyone else. Think now how much you love life and love G-d. Thank Him for these 5 steps and now have a great day!

Can you imagine what you've just accomplished?

A person who loves himself will never lie, because he or she doesn't need to invent stories to try and make themselves look great in other people's eyes.

A person who loves himself will never speak lashon hara, evil speech, about anyone.

A person who loves himself will never ridicule any other human being.

A person who loves himself will never flatter evil or evil people, and tell them out of fear (of being accepted or of losing a job) that they or their evil deeds are wonderful.

The four sins of lying, evil speech, ridicule and flattery sever a person from the Almighty. The soul, in order to be happy, must be connected to the Almighty. By loving yourself, not only do you maintain that connection, but you smile all day long. Nothing in the world is better. Every blessing, LB


Overweight, Lustful Eating and Self-Image

Overeating 16.9.19
Let's define "lustful eating": lustful eating means that we eat when we don't need to, either out of boredom, compulsion, as a means of trying to console ourselves or as source of recreation, when we strive to satiate our bodily appetites with no regard to our spiritual and physical health. Lustful eating is the opposite of healthy eating. The three main types of lustful eating are eating unhealthy foods, overeating and binge eating. Lustful eating is not only detrimental to the body, but to the soul as well, as we'll soon see.

According to the Rambam, lustful eating the #1 cause of all disease, even the nasty big C, the disease that won’t don’t even like to mention by name. Lustful eating also creates an iron curtain between a person and Hashem. So, a person can’t possibly get close to Hashem until he or she overcomes their lust for eating. These are not my words, but the words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.

Western society’s preoccupation with pleasure seeking and appetite fulfillment is fertile ground for lustful eating, but it's not the root of it. The root, as many psychotherapists will tell you, is a low self-image. A person who can't see his or her own self worth will suffer from being overweight and out of shape, but they won't go past a mere one-time paltry effort because they don't believe that they are capable of succeeding in getting into shape. I see this time and again in my clients; just as important as teaching them healthy eating habits and exercise, I work with them on their self image. Nine out of ten people with weight and fitness problems, in my experience, had or have an abusive parent who robbed them of their feeling of self worth from a tender age. Let's go deeper. 

In Likutei Moharan, Part 1,Torah 47, Rebbe Nachman says: “One who is entrenched in the lust for eating is far from the truth, and severe judgments hover over him."  

The lustful eater encounters Rebbe Nachman's above teaching and protests vehemently: "What, is Rebbe Nachman calling me a liar, just because I'm into the cookie jar more than I should be or just because I down a pizza with a couple cans of cola?" Cherished friend, if you eat like that, you can't possibly care too much about yourself. What's even worse is that you're unaware how much Hashem cares about you, loves you and wants to be healthy. What's worse yet is that you don't believe how much Hashem cares about you, loves you and wants to be healthy. Sorry, but in that respect, the lustful eater is far from the truth.

Hashem loves you - guaranteed - and He wants you to love yourself. All the negative comments that the abusive person in your life made when you were little were the biggest lies in the world. Tell yourself over and over how much Hashem loves you; say it to yourself a thousand times a day. Once you internalize it, the distance between you and looking and feeling your best is much much shorter. Hashem loves you - I promise. G-d bless for your good health!


A Spiritual Solution for Strong Bones

Spiritual Calcium
The same principles that apply to the material world apply to the spiritual world, as we see in this week's Torah portion, Ki Tetze.

"…and you were tired and exhausted and did not fear G-d." (Deuteronomy 25:18).

The Torah doesn't waste a single letter, much less a single word. So why is the Torah seemingly repetitious in the above passage when it says "tired and exhausted"? Wouldn't one description of fatigue have been sufficient here?

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan I:67.8) that when a person prays without intent in his heart, he arrives to a state of "soul fatigue", when the slightest spiritual tasks seem to be heavy burdens. This tiredness of the soul causes a weakening of the bones.

In fact, virtually all of our physical problems stem from spiritual problems. Your nutritionist and your osteopathic surgeon may be baffled at your bone problems, especially if you eat naturally and consume a lot of calcium. This is the very reason why a truly holistic health coach must be abreast in the health of your soul as well as in the health of your body, as Rebbe Nachman reveals to us.

The remedy for this soul fatigue is to pray with such fervor and intent to the extent that he can feel the prayer in all his bones, as it is written, "All my bones shall say, Hashem, who is like You?" (Psalm 35:10). Such prayer, explains Rebbe Nachman, revives the soul and thereby solves the problem of soul-fatigue. In addition, it adds vitality to the bones.

Simply speaking, prayer with strong intent is spiritual calcium.

With Rebbe Nachman's teaching in mind, we can now understand the above passage much better. The two adjectives "tired and exhausted" are by no means superfluous. Whereas "exhausted" indicates physical fatigue, "tired" comes to describe a tiredness of the soul, or soul fatigue. We can also readily understand what the Midrash teaches, that the spiritually-weak lagged behind and outside the protective Cloud of Glory and therefore became easy prey for Amalek, because they had bad cases of spiritual osteoporosis.

A person's physical fatigue frequently stems from spiritual fatigue. One doesn't tire when he or she is doing something that they truly enjoy. To go a step further, the lack of desire that leads to spiritual fatigue also leads to sadness and depression. Wherever there are sadness and depression, the Divine Presence takes leave. In spirituality, there is no void. When the Divine Presence leaves, Amalek and the forces of evil descend on a person and overcome him immediately.

According to Rebbe Nachman's advice, there's a remedy for soul-fatigue, a way for one to rescue himself from the clutches of Amalek, the evil inclination, sadness and depression, which all go together since negative emotions stem from the evil inclination. How? A person should simply begin to pray with enthusiasm and with heartfelt intent until he can feel the warmth of the prayer in his entire body. If there's no "heart" in the prayer, and it's lip-service alone, then on a spiritual plane, one's heart becomes distanced from one's soul, a phenomenon that causes soul-fatigue. Under the principle of "divide and conquer", the more one's heart and soul are separated, the greater the soul-fatigue and the easier it is for the evil inclination - "Amalek" - to attack and subdue a person.

The good news is that anyone can rescue himself from Amalek and from soul-fatigue. Let him start by reciting one of his daily blessings with joy and enthusiasm. Imagine how miserable life would be without eyes; now, recite pokeach ivrim with all the joy in the world. Thank G-d, if you're reading this, you haves eyes! How fortunate you are to have such a wonderful gift from Hashem. Imagine how embarrassing life would be if you had to walk around all day long wearing a dusty burlap sack with holes for the head and the arms and nothing more. Now, get dressed and recite malbish arumim with such fervor and happiness, really thanking Hashem from the bottom of your heart.Try it - you'll feel better in an instant. This is the way we should approach all of our prayers - observing our blessings, taking nothing for granted and showing our gratitude with enthusiasm. This is the basis of the type of fervent, enthusiastic prayer that not only adds energy to our souls but cures our bones. Try it and have a lovely Shabbat!


7-Minute Exercise Routine for Total Beginners

7-Minute Exercise Routine for Beginners from lazerbrody on Vimeo.

Today is your last day for excuses that you can't exercise, or you're too out of shape, or two old, or whatever. This is the routine that I give to my beginning diet and conditioning clients, which anyone can do on their own level. In seven short minutes, you'll fuel your metabolism to the point that your body will burn more calories long after you complete this exercise. What's more, the "endorphins" - the "feel-good hormones" that result from exercise, begin to flow after 7 minutes of exercise. Here's the routine:

Minute #1 - Warmup - 30 seconds of neck circles (15 seconds in each direction) followed by 30 seconds of arm circles (15 seconds in each direction)

Minute #2 - Warmup - 30 seconds of seal claps followed by 30 seconds of hula hoops (15 seconds in each direction)

Minute #3 - Cardio - 60 seconds of marching, stepping as high as is comfortable for you

Minute #4 - Strength - 60 seconds of curl & press, with dumbbells or any other weighted objects you have at home, like bottles of water

Minute #5 - Flexibility - 60 seconds of side lunges

Minute #6 - Combining cardio with strength and flexibility - 60 seconds of squats

Minute #7 - Cooldown, hug yourself while bending down, followed by a big upward stretch and thanks to the Almighty!

Do this every day, and wait and see how good you feel! G-d bless for great health, LB


Bouncing Back from a Setback

Winner's Code 9.9
Sure, it really hurts. You lost the match. Maybe you just now flunked your driving exam. Or maybe you just received a rejection letter from the school, job or marital prospect of your choice. Anyone hurts all over from a setback that's natural and expected. Remember, we're flesh and blood…

The good news is that there's no law that one must stay down from a setback. Indeed, getting back on our feet requires far more strength of character than staying on our feet, without ever haven been knocked down. For that reason, King Solomon, the wisest individual who ever walked the face of the earth, said, "A righteous man falls seven times, and gets up again" (Proverbs 24:16). In other words, he doesn't merit the title "righteous" until he has fallen at least seven times.

Don't let a setback get you down. You can't have a comeback until you've had the setback. Don't forget too that even the halfback and the linebacker of the winning team are full of bruises and sore muscles.

Take five minutes and ponder the following five points – one point per minute. They'll put you back on your feet and give you the motivation and power to make your own fantastic comeback.

  1. Only doers fail. People who drive sometimes get traffic tickets. People who don't drive don't ever make wrong turns. Wouldn't it be ridiculous if an elderly person bragged that he never committed a traffic violation, if he never drove a car? The first consolation of a setback is the knowledge that you are a doer.
  2. Setbacks teach, and usually trigger a stronger second effort. Failure guards us against complacency and arrogance. When we fail, we realize that we need to improve. Oftentimes, a second effort is far superior to even a best first effort. Don't be angry with yourself; just try harder. Failure is like your soccer team losing a goal – the other team may have scored a point, but the game's not over! A setback helps us try harder and reach higher, thereby enabling us to fulfill a higher level of our potential. And, if you've failed that driving test, it simply means that with a few more lessons and additional practice, you'll be a much better driver on the road, for your own safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road.
  3. Setbacks strengthen faith. If we were constantly successful, we'd probably walk around with our noses in the air. Then, we'd be ugly, heaven forbid, because few things are uglier than arrogance. The Creator loves humility and wants us to realize that He is the source of both our setbacks and comebacks, failures and successes. He gives us a setback (yup, it's not your fault!) because He wants us to pray a lot harder and earnestly seek His assistance for our next effort. If our lives were a perfect string of successes, we'd almost certainly neglect our spiritual development.
  4. Experience is life's best teacher. The experience of a setback, especially a painful one, drives a lesson home immediately. Usually, we are slow in internalizing and implementing what we learn. After a setback, we have a golden opportunity to better ourselves immediately.
  5. Small-scale setbacks assures large-scale success. Where would an actor prefer to forget a line, in rehearsal or on stage? A failure in rehearsal often assures a better performance on stage, since the actor makes a special effort to polish the rough edges of his or her performance. Sometimes, small failures are none other than preparations for large successes. Rejections are Divine filters to keep you away from unwanted paths. Rejected? Don't be dejected. Something much better (job, soul-mate, etc.) is on the way.

Therefore:

Don't ever despair when you have a setback. Try harder, ask the Creator for help, and then be positive that you'll do much better the next time. Depression and despair stem from the dark, spiritually impure side, and prevent you from being happy. Despair perpetuates inner turmoil and creates a barrier between you and Divine light. With these five minutes of motivating ourselves, we now mobilize the strength within us to make a great comeback. It's the real deal. When we do, we usually discover that our second effort yields much better results and reveals potential that we didn't even know that we had. Remember, the setbacks all come from a loving Father in Heaven and they're all for our very best. Now smile, because it's all good. Yours always, LB


Finding Your Spiritual Guide

Spiritual guide 5.9.19
Here's a thought on this week's Torah portion, "Shoftim":

"A prophet from your midst, from your brethren, like me, shall Hashem your G-d establish for you; to him shall you heed..." (Deuteronomy 18:15).

How can we recognize the true prophet, the spiritual leader that the Torah refers to in the above passage?

The Torah itself asks, "How can we know the word that Hashem has not spoken?" (ibid 18:21). Even more perplexing is what Rashi says here, "Don't listen to him unless he's an expert for you and a known tzaddik like Elijah on Mount Carmel who sacrificed from a platform during the time that platforms were forbidden."

We're left with a perplexing question: how can a simple person possibly determine who is the genuinely righteous spiritual guide that he should listen to?

Two yeshiva boys who came from two different Chassidic groups were once arguing who is greater, A's rebbe or B's rebbe. Their debate became so vocal that the Mashgiach[1] of the Yeshiva overheard them. On the spot, he summoned both students. He asked young-man A, "Do you know how to say the Ata Chonantanu blessing[2] by heart?" Young-man A rattled off the blessing with ease, in one breath. The Mashgiach then turned to young-man B and asked, "Can you say the Vatodienu blessing by heart, the blessing that we say during Kiddush when Yom Tov comes out on Motza'ei Shabbat[3]?"

Young-man B's face flushed with embarrassment. He stuttered, made a few abortive attempts, but he couldn't recite the Vatodienu blessing by heart.

The Mashgiach consoled young-man B and said, "Don't be ashamed, because I don't even know how to recite the Vatodienu blessing by heart - in fact, I don't think that anyone does. Do you know why? We say the Ata Chonantanu blessing every single week on Motza'ei Shabbat, when Shabbat is over. As such, everyone knows how to differentiate between the holy and the mundane. Yet, we rarely say the Vatodienu blessing - sometimes an entire year or two can go by without having a Yom Tov fall right after Shabbat. In like manner, few of us can differentiate between holy and holy."

With an understanding smile, the Mashgiach turned to young-man A and said, "Your rabbi is your gateway to Heaven; he knows your soul, your talents and your unique qualities, your strengths and your weaknesses. But your learning partner's rabbi knows his. There is no one single spiritual expert and guide - each person has his according to the inclinations of his soul and Divine providence. Therefore, respect each other, and respect each other's rabbis. Both are holy."

The Mashgiach's analogy is alluded to in Rashi's above commentary, "an expert for you", for you in particular. Each righteous spiritual guide enjoys special Divine assistance for those who earnestly seek his help and advice. Since a truly righteous individual is accustomed to nullifying himself, he is sensitive to the needs of others. Still, we haven't answered our original question: How can a simple person possibly determine who is a genuinely righteous spiritual guide that he should heed?

The answer is simple: if the spiritual guide is capable of identifying a person's spiritual weaknesses, even if the latter individual doesn't know how to determine them on their own, then this is probably your "personal expert". This is what the above Torah passage hints at when it says, from your midst - Hashem helps the truly righteous spiritual guide to see a person's inner spiritual dimensions so that he can help that person get closer to Hashem. And, by virtue of his sensitivity to his students and to those who seek his help, he is able to identify what bothers them and provides them with the needed remedy to cure their aching souls. Also, one truly loves his or her "personal expert" even when he chastises them. So, if he scolds you and you still love him, listen to him, for that's your true spiritual guide, your "personal expert".

Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat and weekend, LB

[1]    Academic supervisor

[2]    The blessing made during the Shmona Esrei of Maariv on Saturday night, which is the blessing that thanks Hashem for differentiating between the holy and the mundane.

[3]    Saturday night


The Lesson of Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov

REBY 4.9.19Above: Rabbi Lazer praying in the hill overlooking the tomb above Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov's burial cave 

A great health-enhancing aid is to pray by the gravesites of our holy sages, and here in the Land of Israel, there are plenty of them. Yesterday on my way up north to Tzfat, I stopped by the holy burial cave of the Tannaic sage Rebbe Elezer ben Yaacov, one of Rebbe Akiva's seven foremost students, who rose to greatness after Rebbe Akiva's first 24,000 students died in a plague for not properly respecting each other. Many people have asked me to pray for their health, so I was glad to fulfill their request at this holy site.

Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov was extremely humble. He didn't say much, but almost everyone of his utterances has been encoded in religious law.  Let's hear more about him:

A Message from the Holy Gravesite of Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


Just Another Piece of Meat?

Bull 30.8
This week's Torah portion, Re'eh, teaches us which animals are befitting to eat and which are not. Wouldn't you be insulted of someone compared you to a piece of meat? On the surface, it seems that King Solomon is doing just that. Could that be?

King Solomon, the wisest of all men, tells us that man is no better than any other animal (see Ecclesiastes 3:19). Rashi explains that both end up dying and both have bodies which will eventually decompose in the soul.

Is that all we are, disposable recycled sacks of fertilizer? It sounds like pretty stiff language that King Solomon and Rashi are using.

Before we get upset, let's take a closer look. King Solomon and Rashi are referring to a flesh-and-blood body; in that respect, we are truly just another mammal. But the Midrash tells us that the mammal is only half of us - the material half. We have another side that's known as the neshama - the soul - our spiritual half.

The more are lives focus on the material, the more we resemble an animal. The more are lives focus on the spiritual, the more we resemble an archangel.

Let's not give animals a bad rap: they eat, drink, and procreate. They also live positive, productive lives, providing society with meat, milk, wool, leather, and fur. Many types of animals serve as means of labor, transportation, and recreation. Dogs fulfill important functions, such as aiding blind people, serving in police and army units, and participating in rescue missions.

A human who simply eats, drinks, and procreates, despite the fact that he or she has a productive job and utilizes leisure time for sports or other positive recreational activities, is still no better than a horse. Horses eat, drink, and procreate, do productive tasks on farms and cattle ranches, and serve as a source of recreational enjoyment to their owners. So, is a person superior to a horse?

A person void of spiritual ambition – a thirst for truth and a yearning for self-realization – is no better than a horse. A horse, like a human, has a basic animal soul. The Divine spirit and soul, which the Creator instills in a human, is the sole point of human superiority over the animal.

When humans utilize their divine spirit and soul to rise above base inclinations, to seek The Almighty, and to behave in a godly fashion, they begin to fulfill their real purpose in life. But, when people misuse or neglect their divine spirit and soul, they are inferior to an animal.

An unblemished soul – one who refrains from transgressing and does The Creator's will on a daily basis – possesses a Divine aura which is reflected by the eyes and the forehead, and casts fear on all of creation, even on man-eating animals.

God blessed Noah after the flood and said (Genesis 9:2), "I have instilled the fear of you in the animals on land, in the birds in the sky, in the creatures on earth, and in the fish in the sea." When people sin, or when they do nothing to develop their spiritual self, their divine soul tarnishes. A tarnished soul lacks the power to generate the holy aura of divine light. Animals and other creatures have no fear of a human devoid of the Divine aura.

The Divine soul is a part of God within us, the spiritual platform that elevates a human above the level of an animal. If the soul is misused or uncultivated, then the human loses his spiritual advantage over the animal.

Imagine that a custodian of a hospital enters the operating room, and takes one of the brain surgeon's fine sterile scalpels for peeling an apple. If caught in the act, such a custodian would surely lose his job. Using an expensive precision instrument for such a mundane task is not only a terrible waste – it's a severe degradation.

By the same token, reducing the soul from its lofty spiritual level to the grade of a mere battery cell that triggers basic emotions and bodily functions is a bitter insult. The degraded soul cries out bitterly before God, "I can't live within a human animal." In turn, the person with the abused soul soon experiences some form of abuse – derision, insult, or embarrassment.

It's time we took stock in ourselves and begin pursuing our true destiny. Anyone with a human soul seeking to get close to G-d is not just another piece of meat.


The Self-Healing Prayer: "Asher Yatzar"

Healing Prayer 28.8.19
A while ago, I delivered a pep-talk to a group of police officers. When I arrived at the headquarters building, my host - an officer with little background in Judaism - greeted me and asked me if I needed anything before I begin my talk. I asked him to show me where the bathroom was.

After the bathroom, I washed my hands three times consecutively with a cup and said slowly with intent the "Asher Yatzar" blessing that one says after visiting the toilet. My host looked at me wide-eyed and asked, "Rabbi, you guys even make a blessing after relieving yourselves?"

I nodded in the affirmative and asked the detective if he'd ever had constipation or diarrhea. He grimaced and said yes, telling me a story of how his whole platoon in the army once contracted salmonella food poisoning during a training maneuver rendering him utterly out of capacity for a week with his intestines totally askew.

"What would you have given to have normal bowel movements back then, instead of the chaos in your guts?" I asked.

"A million shekels!" the officer answered.

"For sure," I responded. "That's why the minimum a person can do is to thank the Creator every time his personal plumbing does its job!"

*******

The Asher Yatzar blessing was initiated by the holy Amora (Talmudic sage) Abayei, (see tractate Brachot 60b). The Gemara relates: "Abayei said, when one comes out of a privy one should say: Blessed is He who has formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your throne of glory that if one of them were to be ruptured or one of them obstructed, it would be impossible for a man to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You that heals all flesh and does wonders."

Our sages promise that by saying Asher Yatzar blessing after visiting the toilet, one is assured of good health. Every time we relieve ourselves, the Creator does a myriad of miracles in maintaining the body's health, casting away dangerous bacteria, microorganisms, and dead body cells in the bodily waste. Even more wondrous is that this heavy maintenance is done in a way that's extremely gratifying to the body.

Taking a few moments to say Asher Yatzar after visiting the toilet is liable to save you hours in down-time, sick-time, doctor visits, and even hospital visits. You'll also save a mint on medical expenses. Better than anything, you'll obtain what no health insurance plan can offer - a guarantee of good health.

As a service to our readers, here is the text in English translation and in English transliteration. There's no time to start saying this lovely blessing like the present.

Asher Yatzar

Blessed are You, Hashem, Our God, King of the universe, Who created the human with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities, exposed and known before Your Throne of Glory, that if one of them were to be ruptured or one one of them were to be blocked it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You for even one hour. Blessed are You, HaShem, The physician of all flesh who acts wondrously.

Baruch atah Adonoi, Elohainu, melech ha'olam, Asher yatzar et ha'adam b'chochmah, u'vara vo n'kavim n'kavim, chalulim chalulim, galui v'yadua lifnai chisei chvodecha, she'im yipatei'ach echad maihem o yisataim echad maihem, ee efshar l'hitkayeim v'la'amod l'fanecha afilu sha'ah achat. Baruch atah Adonoi, rofeh chol basar u'mafli la'asot.

The Practical Laws of Visiting the Toilet

No, this is not a joke. Proper deportment in the bathroom is an integral part of health, personal hygiene and holiness. Besides, Jewish Law - Halacha - covers every single aspect of daily life.

As an additional service to our readers, here are the laws concerning visiting the toilet in a nutshell, based on Chapter Four of The Abridged Code of Jewish Law (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch):

  1. One must relieve oneself as soon as one feels the need, without delay.
  2. One must be modest in the toilet, and not relieve oneself in front of other people unless there is a partition.
  3. One must be careful not to overly strain, for it could create problems in the colon.
  4. One must not think about Torah or Torah-related subjects in the toilet; instead, think about mundane matters such as business or commerce.
  5. One must cleanse oneself thoroughly after visiting the toilet, for it is forbidden to pray if one’s body isn’t completely clean of excrement traces.
  6. Every time after visiting the toilet, even after urinating one drop, one must wash one’s hands thoroughly and then say the “Asher Yatzar” blessing.

May the Almighty grant you and yours wonderful health always, amen! Every blessing, LB